Sunday, July 4, 2010

The beauty in diversity

In northern California, we’re tucked away in the mountains, beneath the amazingly beautiful Mt. Shasta. Glorious snow-capped peaks, trees, flowers, rivers and lakes encompass my soul stirring a renewed revelation of the shadows of our lives being cast by natural beauty. There are no fields of corn growing here and it’s unlike any terrain I encountered in Iowa. Yet oddly enough, I’m continually reminded of my experiences there and the tremendous growth I acquired from the people, places and things associated with it. And like the analogy I drew from sprouting corn (see Corn Fields and New Beginnings), mountainous splendor has ignited my creative imaginations, and inspired me with words:

We live. We die. We try.
We learn to lean on others.

We shine. We hide.
We learn to overcome.
We learn that what we want isn’t always what we need.
People and things come and go like the ebb and flow of the raging waters and a settling breeze.

We get all tied up in knots, trying, as we become confused, forgetting what we set out to do in the first place.

We do whatever it takes, to break through to the other side as we strive to fulfill our purpose.

The inspiration? Brightly colored blossoms scattered amid vast greenery. They paint a picture of individual distinction, constituents called to harmonious community. I'm surrounded by foliage representing every stage of life, from bloom to doom and all of a sudden, I began to relate my experiences directly to these scenes I’ve captured on digital film. A sprouting pine tree versus the dead one: a direct correlation to the drastic contrast of the beginning and ending stages of life.

Then I looked around at the vivacious colors and various types of flowers and trees at their different stages of life--and how gorgeous they are as a compilation. Such is life when we apply our unique designs as individuals into our communities, fulfilling our intended roles. I noticed a bouquet of wilting flowers grasped in the weathered hand of my precious grandmother as they approach their final stage together, recognizing how quickly it comes and goes.

Just before I sat down to begin writing, a sweet little girl, about three years old offered me a little pink flower. She held a bucket full, that had been freshly picked. This gesture perfectly consummates my recognition of these things. She examined the selection carefully, and chose one to her liking. It was gorgeous when she handed it to me, yet it’s already beginning to wilt. Soon, it will begin to lose it’s color, dry out completely and never again face the one chance it was given to decorate this earth.

Similarly we are given one chance to decorate the earth with our many diverse talents and abilities. Like the flower, that’s laying on my computer, we are unaware of when we will be picked and our life will come to an end. I am determined to show my vibrant color while I still have the chance. To be a radiant adornment among a plethora of greenery. The mountains to the east are covered in lush greenery with gigantic pine trees that are beautiful in their own way. But the small, colorful flowers are ultimately what catch my eye and fill the viewfinder of my camera. Their size, insignificant to the majestic mountain full of trees. Yet a single pink flower, like the one Naomi gave me, creates charm superlative to its conventional surroundings.

We are here to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, the Fourth of July. How lucky we are to be natives of a nation whose declaration, proclaimed over 200 years ago, granted us liberty without restriction! Without it, I wouldn’t be able to reflect on these things and celebrate my freedom to express them as a woman writer. I never would have bloomed into the colorful, aromatic flower I was meant to be, fulfilling my purpose. I would never touch the lives of others who read the pages I’ve filled. There would be a missing link in my community. Without it, we would all be pine trees.

A year ago, I was sitting at my desk at JoAnn’s house in Iowa. At that desk, I scripted the first pages of this blog contemplating these very same thoughts. Though, this time around, I have another year’s worth of experiences, new friends and opportunities to add to my collection. It’s been an amazing, wild ride. I am proud to say that in that year, I have grown, tremendously as a woman, and as a writer. All too often, we fail to take advantage of the liberty we’ve been granted to seize our chance at becoming someone, binding ourselves into slavery.

Today we celebrate freedom, something that I feel has been jeopardized and no longer perceived as a God-given right. It has become a privilege deemed worthy by the government to their liking. Release self-inflicted shackles. Shine in your community and blossom into the person you were created to be because you can.

I, along with my family, am celebrating on Lake Siskiyou, a small lake with regulations that prevent boats from exceeding 10 miles an hour. It has a breathtaking view of Mt. Shasta and hundreds of people have come from surrounding counties to experience the display of fireworks that will be shot off from its southeast shore.

I was on a boat ride earlier today, when I observed people congregating along the shore setting up camp, passing festive foods, and searching out a spot to engage in their own mini celebration. I thought about all of the families, and groups of people across this sacred land, who are doing the exact same thing, at this very moment. On this day, we gather with friends and loved ones to pay tribute to the significance of this day. I am overwhelmed that I am given the chance to be part of such a huge celebration.

In every part of this nation, people of different personalities, backgrounds, races, religions and interests set this day apart from all of the rest to observe the one thing we all have in common, our home.

I was in Chicago on this day last year, watching fireworks from the pier with my best friend. We brushed shoulders with all sorts of people, as we heard inspirational words from Barack Obama in a prelude to the National Anthem and watched a display of fireworks. My emotions were stirred, as they are every year, but my expressions of gratitude are understated by the grand blessing it is to be one of a diverse group. Individually, we expose our diversities, yet collectively, we become a part of the bigger picture, representing our culture and ultimately the human race.

I feel like I am lightyears away from Chicago today, celebrating with a more humble crowd. Eccentric, you might say. The people in these parts have been dubbed, backwards, hillbillies, hippies and mountain people. No doubt, their lifestyles surprise even me, who have been repeatedly exposed to their customs.

As different as they are, I keep noticing the American flags and patriotic ribbons tied to the boats that line the dock, being caught up in the wind. That same symbol is displayed all over this nation today, as they were last year on the pier in Chicago, the skyscrapers of New York and L.A., barns across the Midwest, churches in the south, and homes from Detroit, Orlando, Seattle and San Diego. Willamantic, Dunsmuir, Panora and Enumclaw.

Our festivities are evidence of our connection to one another. As often as we point our fingers at our differences, laughing at them in support of our own way of doing things, our celebrations are a good reminder that our differences don’t have to divide us as they often do.

I can guarantee that in every state across America today, you will see street fairs, parades, BBQ’s, boats, fireworks and alcohol--all as a representation of our freedom. The freedom we all possess together. As one. Americans. This is our home, America. Find your place in it.

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